The bone reaction to hydroxyapatite (HA) implants inserted transcortically and extending into the medullary canal of rat tibiae was quantitatively assessed using light microscopy, confocal laser scanning microscopy and an image processing system. Sixty-five male rats (6 weeks old) were divided into two groups, 60 for histological observation and image analysis and five for time-labelling. In the histological observation, control sections of 168 days showed a few bone trabeculae in the fatty bone marrow, and Ti implants had become gradually encapsulated with a thick bone tissue layer; however, HA implants became almost completely encapsulated with a thin bone tissue layer during the 168 day experimental period. Histometrical analysis of the percent bone contact revealed that Ti implants showed a continuous increasing curve, and HA implants showed rapid increase in the initial healing period up to 14 days, with 96% bone contact reaching a plateau at 84 days after operation. There was a significant difference in the percent of bone contact between Ti and HA implants throughout the experimental period. Confocal laser scanning microscopic observations revealed the presence of calcein at the 14th day and only slight alizarin colour layer in the bone tissue at the 28th day, both indicating bone formation. These findings suggest that the activity of bone formation was higher at the 14th day than at the 28th day. Also, the percentage of bone contact of HA is superior to titanium throughout the experimental period, and the ascending patterns of both implants are quite different to each other.
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